We leave school believing that the second we have unprotected sex there will be a baby, so we better be careful then, as soon as we want a family, it will happen. Some people are that lucky but, in sad truth, 1 in 5 pregnancies will miscarry and 1 in 80 pregnancies will be ectopic. It is a devastating experience for a family; often an experience where all the focus gets put on the mother, but dads have feelings too and often feel an overwhelming sense of duty that they have to be the strong one and hold things together for the rest of the family.
Give yourself time
The pain of losing a baby can be overwhelming. For some men this grief can be instantaneous but many men need time and space and the feelings may not hit them until many weeks later. It is important to try not to pressure yourself with certain expectations of what your experience should look and feel like, and try not to feel guilty about the way you are. There are no rules, there is no right or wrong way to do it and there is no required process or pattern that you must follow with your grief.
Many men try to distract themselves from their feelings by keeping busy and taking on the practical activities that need to take place following the loss of a baby. Often this can lead to looking for solutions and ways to ‘fix things’. This is a very common and natural reaction. However, as men and women grieve so differently, often women misinterpret this as not caring about the loss and it can lead to arguments. If you do find that you are distracting yourself, do allow yourself time to grieve and try to communicate that this is your way of coping.
Men are usually expected, or may expect themselves, to be the strong and supportive one at such an emotional time. As a result, they often avoid talking about their own feelings or the loss because they think they are protecting their partners by not raising a potentially distressing subject. While being a family ‘rock’ and providing commendable support, this can also lead to difficulties if you don’t get the opportunity to grieve or if your partner wrongly misinterprets your attempts to protect her as indifference to the loss. Again, communication is the key to working your way through this distressing time.
Bereaved couples sometimes experience temporary difficulties with their sexual relationship. For example, you may find lovemaking a source of comfort and closeness, while your partner may not feel physically ready, may see sex as a frightening reminder of the loss, or may feel that the desire for sex is insensitive.
Talk about it
Men tend to be more reluctant to share their feelings and are often used to relying solely on their partner for emotional support. However, if your partner is devastated by her own grief, you may feel that you don’t want to add to it and try to put your feelings on hold. Although it may feel difficult, the most important thing that the two of you can do is talk to each other. This is easier if both of you are aware that grief is very individual and both your feelings and how you deal with them will not always be the same. Every individual expresses and deals with their feelings differently and it is not an indication that one partner feels the loss of a baby more intensely than the other.
Sometimes it can help you or your partner to communicate with someone else who has been through what you are going through. Just hearing that you are not alone in your experience and that your feelings are normal and similar to other peoples can be a huge comfort and can relieve some of the pressure.
Recovery takes time. Just like a physical wound, a psychological wound cannot be forced to heal quickly. Flowing with the healing process is better than fighting it. It is important to understand that there are no real time frames for this and each person takes as long as they take to overcome the challenges of experiencing a trauma such as baby loss.
You and your partner may feel the need to talk about what happened and how it made you both feel then, and how it’s making you both feel now, over many weeks and months. Often, feeling that there is someone to listen who isn’t trying to fix anything but is able to listen in a compassionate way, is extremely helpful in the recovery process.